Top economists, intellectuals propose an all-powerful communist regime to tackle corona crisis

An economic action plan endorsed by leading public intellectuals suggests India must do “whatever it takes” to raise resources during the coronavirus pandemic, even treating private property as a national resource.

But for many, that idea is outrageous.

Mission Jai Hind, a seven-point plan of action made public on Friday, urges the government to provide travel services for migrant workers hoping to return to home, free healthcare for coronavirus patients, compensation for job and wage losses and universal access to expanded rations.

But the source of consternation is a line saying all resources “with the citizens or within the nation”, such as cash, real estate, property and bonds, “must be treated as national resources available during this crisis”.

Several Twitter users made their displeasure plain.

But Saturday morning brought a twist: the historian Ramachandra Guha, named as one of the intellectuals endorsing the plan, said the statement sent to him contained a different version of the line on national resources:

“All resources within the nation are national resources, available for this mission.”

Guha said the line in the version made public “has become deeply tendentious with…major changes made without the consent of some signatories”, diverting attention from the “many sensible suggestions” in the document.

“I have not and do nor endorse this,” he said, referring to the amended line.

But Ashutosh Varshney, an international studies professor at Brown University (and a prominent intellectual endorsing the action plan), said the statement wasn’t against the right to property.

“’Nationalization’ is equal to public ownership of private resources. I have never been for that. ‘National resources’, perhaps awkwardly phrased, only means that these resources can be taxed to generate revenue at a higher rate, if needed for emergency needs,” he wrote in a serious of tweets.

India is currently in the fourth phase of an extended lockdown imposed in March; it has reported over 1.25 lakh coronavirus cases, including more than 3,700 deaths, according to central government data.

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